Early critics of Emily Dickinson’s poetry mistook for

Early critics of Emily Dickinson’s poetry mistook for simplemindedness the surface of artlessness that in fact she constructed with such __________.

  1. astonishment
  2. craft
  3. cunning
  4. innocence
  5. naivete
  6. vexation

Sentence Equivalence Questions: Because finding ONE word for the blank just wasn’t tedious enough! If you’re studying for the GRE, sentence equivalence questions can be a bit tricky, and maybe you have some questions about Question 12 on the first Verbal section of PowerPrep. Don’t worry! PrepScholar is here to help walk you through it.

First, we want to scan our sentence for any clues as to how our blank relates to keywords. This sentence is pretty subtle, but we should note that our critics “mistook for” one thing what was “in fact” something else. Indeed, we’re told that critics though that a “surface of artlessness” or appearance of unskillful was the result of “simplemindedness” when actually it was __________. So, we want the word in our blank to contrast with “simplemindedness.”

One thing that makes sentence equivalence questions difficult is the fact that are sentence may not contain quite as many clues. In other words, since we need to find TWO choices that each complete the sentence in the same way our blank itself could lend itself to more than one interpretation. However, we know that our answers will still contain exactly TWO correct choices that give the sentence the same meaning. We want to do our best to define the blank, but ultimately we also need to combine our knowledge of the blank with a search for a pair of words that could fit.

For example, here, there are a few things that might contrast with “simplemindedness,” so maybe the best thing to do is to define our blank as “not simplemindedness.” Though this might not seem like a totally specific prediction, we are also going to have to find a pair of answers that contrast with simplemindedness in the same way. Let’s take a look at our answers.

  1. astonishment

Hmm. “Astonishment” relates surprise perhaps to the point to disbelief. This doesn’t really fit into the category of “not simplemindedness,” so we can eliminate A.

  1. craft

Well, this sentence doesn’t exactly seem to be about arts and crafts, but can’t “craft” also mean skill or adeptness? And to be skillfull or clever certainly contrasts with being “simpleminded.” Additionally, this answer would contrast with the fact that the work appears “artless.” This seems like a good answer, so let’s keep B for now. It seems like it could work, so we’ll keep it as a possibility and if we don’t find a match we’ll know it wasn’t meant to be.

  1. cunning

Cunning is always a bad thing, right? We wouldn’t want to describe Emily Dickinson in a negative way like this—is what the test makers want us to think! Sure, “cunning” most often refers to skill in achieving one’s ends through deceit, but it has a secondary definition of simply adeptness or skill. So wait. This answer DOES match “craft” (and, incidentally, “craft” could match the more devious definition of “cunning”). It seems we have a pair, but we still have three answers left that we should at least consider before we just go ahead and click B and C, just in case we misunderstood something.

  1. innocence

Innocence refers to a lack of worldliness, experience, or guilt, which, if anything, is too close to simplemindedness (though the two are not exactly synonymous). We can eliminate D because it doesn’t contrast with our keyword in the way we know our blank should.

  1. naivete

This answer is a match for “innocence,” so we can see if we had misread our sentence and thought we wanted something somewhat similar to simplemindedness. However, since we know her work only appears to be “artless” that Dickinson’s work is actually quite well-done, so we definitely want something pretty dissimilar to “simplemindedness.”

  1. vexation

Hmm. The test makers know that many of us may be unfamiliar with this word and might jump at a word we feel like is sort of familiar but don’t necessarily know. In fact, “vexation” means “annoyance,” which doesn’t fit our context at all. We can eliminate F.

Let’s plug our answers in to make sure they both create sentences that are alike in meaning.

“Early critics of Emily Dickinson’s poetry mistook for simplemindedness the surface of artlessness that in fact she constructed with such craft .”

“Early critics of Emily Dickinson’s poetry mistook for simplemindedness the surface of artlessness that in fact she constructed with such cunning .”

Yes! Now both sentences tell us that while Dickinson’s work might at first appear to be simple and easy, she actually was very clever in how she created this outward appearance for what we can infer was quite complex work. The test makers tried to trick us by using a secondary definition of “cunning,” but we proved that all of the other answers could be eliminated. B and C work.


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